CEUnits Blog

Narcissism: Understanding the Complex Facets and Implications for Therapy

August 25th, 2023

Narcissism, a term that’s deeply embedded in popular culture and psychology, has varied interpretations. Its origin stems from the Greek mythological figure Narcissus, who fell in love with his reflection in a pool of water, eventually leading to his own demise. The tale symbolizes the extreme self-love and self-centeredness that characterizes narcissism. In the modern therapeutic world, understanding narcissism is vital as it can significantly influence interpersonal relationships and overall mental health.

The Spectrum of Narcissism

While the term “narcissism” often carries negative connotations, it’s essential to understand that narcissism exists on a spectrum. On one end, there’s healthy narcissism, which involves self-esteem and self-confidence without disregarding others. On the opposite end lies narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), a mental health disorder characterized by an inflated sense of importance, a need for excessive admiration, and a lack of empathy for others.

The Challenges of Treating Narcissism

Therapists often find it challenging to treat individuals with pronounced narcissistic traits or NPD. Given that narcissists frequently view themselves as superior or exceptional, they may deny the need for therapy or view the therapist as inferior. Moreover, because of their need for admiration and validation, they may manipulate the therapeutic process to maintain their self-image.

Wendy Behary, a leading expert in the field, has extensively delved into the intricacies of narcissism and methods of intervention. She poignantly stated, “Without empathy, you can never really understand your impact on others.” This quote underscores the central dilemma in narcissism – the inability to genuinely resonate with others’ feelings and perspectives. Such an absence of empathy leads to relational challenges, misunderstandings, and conflicts.

Therapeutic Approaches for Narcissism

  1. Schema Therapy: Developed by Jeffrey Young, this approach combines elements from cognitive, behavioral, and psychodynamic therapies. Wendy Behary, a proponent of Schema Therapy, believes that it can be instrumental in treating narcissism. By addressing early maladaptive schemas – core beliefs and patterns that develop during childhood and influence behavior – therapists can help individuals recognize and modify these deep-rooted patterns.
  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This approach can help narcissistic individuals recognize and change their harmful beliefs and behaviors. By challenging their distorted self-images and promoting more adaptive interpersonal behaviors, CBT can facilitate change in individuals with narcissistic tendencies.
  3. Psychoanalytic Therapy: Rooted in the teachings of Sigmund Freud, this therapy seeks to uncover unconscious motives and conflicts. By understanding and integrating these unconscious elements, individuals with narcissistic traits can develop better self-awareness and relational skills.

Keep Learning

Narcissism, whether a personality trait or a more severe disorder, significantly influences an individual’s relationship with themselves and others. With experts like Wendy Behary shedding light on effective therapeutic interventions, there’s hope for those seeking understanding and change. Recognizing the underlying vulnerabilities and promoting empathy can pave the way for healthier relationships and better mental well-being. Claim CEU for Wendy Behary’s course here.


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